Are Labrador Retrievers Good With Cats?

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

Cats and dogs are often used to describe opposites, and most people have a strong opinion on which humble pet is best. Whether you’re a cat lover or believe dogs are truly man’s best friend, owning both can sometimes be difficult for any pet owner. While many homes own both, it’s always best to do some research before diving in and pairing the two together – after all, a harmonious home is a happy home.

Labrador retrievers are a great addition to any family home; these dogs are friendly and fun, making them perfect for anyone with children too. Since Labradors tend to be social dogs, they often do get along with other animals – including cats. Labradors fit into group situations quickly and often provide excellent company to other cats too. 

So, if you’re considering adding a Labrador to your roster of pets we’ve found out how to introduce a Lab to your cat and how to make sure they get along perfectly. Read on to find out all you need to know about Labrador and cat relationships.

Why Owning A Labrador And Cats Works Well

Some breeds of dogs aren’t suited to living with cats; unfortunately, that’s just the way it is, but Labradors are well-suited to share life with their cat friends. Here are some benefits to owning a Labrador when you already have cats.

Social Behavior

Most dog lovers will know that Labradors are friendly pets, not only to us humans but also to other animals. All dog breeds have their perks, but not all can get on with other pets, especially as some get jealous or restless easily around others. In general, Labradors will be happy to be around others and to share a space with a cat. Unlike the Labrador retriever, cats are more likely to be jealous, but this sentiment is more than likely to be a cat-only problem. 

Cats Can Relax

Cats are agile and independent; they often roam around and do their own thing. These traits are a bonus when adding a dog into the home space; if the cat feels overwhelmed, they have the intelligence to slink away until they feel comfortable again. Cats are very social, but they often need more alone time than dogs. If you already own a cat, they’ll probably already have claimed a few spots around the house as their own. Keep these clear from the Lab so that they have places to hide and relax when needed.

Well Trained

Another general bonus to owning a Labrador retriever is that they’re easily trained. This not only makes them eBay to live with, but it also benefits your cat too. Once your new pup is introduced into your living space, they’ll naturally catch on to what they can and can’t get away with when it comes to annoying the cat. This can be helped by formal training or home-training, and the Labrador will quickly work out what the status quo is. 

Can Hunter Breeds Live With Cats?

Many people ask if hunter breeds can live harmoniously with cats or if they should just stick to ‘friendly’ dog breeds. While most hunter breeds will naturally chase the cat due to prey drive or boredom, sometimes these breeds get on with cats even better than the expected ones. 

If a hunter dog is trained to live with a cat, their chances of living together well are higher; they often become excellent friends with the cat-like they usually do with children. Dog breeds like German Shepherds and Akitas often live well with cats after brief training; patience and persistence are key to a happy home full of pets. 

Will Labradors And Cats Become Friends?

Labradors were historically used for retrieving, unlike gundogs, commonly used to chase and kill prey. This means they don’t naturally have the urge to attack small animals. When a Labrador barks at a small animal, it’s usually due to territorial instincts, but this shouldn’t be a worrying sign since it can be unlearned through training and grooming exercises.

All in all, yes, Labradors and cats can be friends! While all pet scenarios will differ, the general rule of thumb is that with good training and comfortable space, these two animals can exist together well. If they do establish a bond, you may even catch them snuggling, teasing, or even licking each other. After years the two friends will have a unique bond and lots of love for each other. 

How To Introduce A Labrador Into Your Cat-Friendly Home

Thinking of going for it and introducing a Lab into your life? Ensure you know all the tips and tricks to make the initial cat and dog living stage smoother. We’ve researched the best trainer-approved methods to make sure your moving-in process is easy. 

How To Start

Firstly, find out if your Labrador has had contact with cats before. This may seem odd, but if your dog hasn’t socialized with cats before, you may need to take extra steps to help them get on. The initial difficulty comes with introductions. 

Remember that it will take a few days for the Lab to get used to your cat, don’t expect the two to be best friends from the get-go. A good way to help this process is to make sure your dog knows basic etiquette and training commands (like sit and stand etc.) before meeting your cat. 

Another key thing to remember is to make sure your Labrador gets sufficient exercise. The last thing you’ll want in this meeting process is a dog with excess energy; this could lead to your Lab winding the cat up by being over-excited or too playful. When you have a dog and a cat in the same house, taking your dog for enough walks is more important than ever.

Avoid using punishment methods on your dog; while these can seem like a quick fix to any unwanted behaviors, they can be harmful in the long term and aggravate your dog’s behavior. 

Go Slow

A gentle introduction will be best for both pets, so make sure you don’t move too quickly when they first meet. Ensure everyone in the house is calm, as too much excitement could stress the cat and make the dog too energetic. Keep noise to a minimum, and when it comes to the two pets physically meeting, do it in a calm manner – first impressions matter!

Make Feline Space

Cats are independent animals, so naturally, they need their own space. Make sure that your cats’ favorite areas are protected when you introduce the dog into your home. It’s even better if the cat’s spots are inaccessible to your dog, for example, in high places. Buying a litter tray or a high cat bed before the dog arrives can help the cat acclimatize better.

Make Labrador Space

Even though cats need more alone time, it’s also essential to create a separate space for your lab when they arrive. Ensure that you have all the dog equipment necessary to care for the dog right away – this could be a dog bed, bowls, food, and toys. Owning these will help the dog feel at home faster and calm their behavior. Make sure to initially keep their food bowls very separate to allow them space when eating; this goes for their beds too! You want to keep the Lab from invading the cat’s space while they get used to each other. 

Train Your Labrador

If you are adopting a younger Labrador pup, one of the best steps you can take to prepare is to get them well trained or start the home training process immediately. Having a wild and uncontrollable dog is the worst-case scenario if you already own a cat, so make sure to utilize training when the retriever pup is young. A well-trained dog creates a calmer home.

Age Does Matter

Introduction methods can also depend on your dog’s age; puppies and adults will have different reactions to a new furry friend. Here are the best practices for puppies and adults. 

How To Introduce An Adult Dog To A Cat

If an adult Labrador is not used to living with a cat, they could behave aggressively in the initial meeting situation. A way to control any unwanted anger is to have the adult Lab on a leash at first to avoid any chasing. Also, commanding adult Labs to sit calmly could diffuse any potential situations. Keep trying to calmly introduce them to each other until you’re confident that they will be calm around each other without you being there. After being socialized, your adult Labrador will be used to your cat’s presence. 

How To Introduce A Puppy To A Cat

When introducing a Labrador puppy to a cat, the best option is to use a crate or a puppy home. Never leave the two alone together until they are fully known, as Labrador puppies can often be more unpredictable and over-excited. 

Like adult dogs, Labrador puppies should be introduced to cats on a leash to ensure the meeting goes smoothly. If your puppy is too small for a leash, control him by hand and make sure that the cat doesn’t show an aggressive temperament.  If your pup starts to behave aggressively towards your cat, control them by command and reward good behavior with a treat!

Frequently Asked Questions

When researching, we found that these are some of the most common questions Labrador owners ask trainers when getting ready to introduce them into a cat household. 

Do I Need To Worry About My Lab Chasing My Cat?

Labradors can sometimes chase cats, often when they enter their territory and they aren’t used to them. Chasing cats is usually caused by a range of triggers; it could be a sound trigger, a motion trigger, or a prey trigger. 
The sound trigger is usually set off from the cat’s meow sound, this trait of chasing the meow can be nipped in the bud with some training. Make sure your dog is properly socialized with the cat before letting them loosely together; if not, keep them separate to avoid any unneeded confrontation.

Motion triggers are similar to sound triggers and often appear like a game of fetch to a dog. Moving cats seem like a small running object for them, so naturally, they’ll chase the cat. Labs run by barking, which signifies they are not trying to kill, unlike other dogs who run silently. If this problem arises, again, make sure the two are comfortable around each other with good training.

The prey trigger, also known as the prey drive,  doesn’t mean Labs want to catch and kill the cat, but it does stem from their background of fetching prey. This means that when they see small animals, like cats, their instincts may tell them to fetch them for you. This can also be corrected with good training. 

How To Create The Best Living Space For Both Pets?

To create a suitable living space for both pets, make sure you have living necessities for each. These shouldn’t initially be shared in case one pet gets jealous. 

Cats need cat toys, separate feeding bowls, a litter box, and possibly a cat tree. Make sure the cat is litter trained, and the litter is cleaned frequently. For the labrador, ensure you have dog toys, dog bowls, and a crate for puppies or a bed for an adult. Make sure the dog is taught housekeeping and to stay away from the sofas. Good training and ground rules go a long way.

The Takeaway

Labrador retrievers and cats can live under the same roof; most of the time, they even become good friends. If this is your goal, make sure to introduce the two animals calmly and provide good, separate living conditions for both so that they don’t end up stepping on each other’s feet. Cats and dogs are not the same, so meeting the needs of each is essential. Having lots of pets in your home can bring it to life and is a pet owner’s dream, so make sure they’re all happy!